Listening to the Field – Modernizing the IDOE STEM School Certification

child working with an abacus
Photo by People Creations

The field has spoken, and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has listened and responded! Over the last several years, schools seeking the coveted IDOE STEM school certification, regardless of the grade bands or students served, had one process and scoring rubric that would partially decide their fate. Additionally, schools who made it past the initial scoring and to the site visit struggled to anticipate the visit and ended up using the visit to provide additional evidence on areas from the rubric where they scored low.  Oftentimes this left schools and their visitors feeling as though they did not fully demonstrate their STEM-worthiness during the visit, thus resulting in the sense of a “dog and pony show” mentality and a lack of confidence in the certification outcome.

During this time, secondary schools and career centers have been speaking out about how the existing certification process, scoring rubric, and evaluation of their STEM opportunities were not a good fit for the way programs functioned and secondary students accessed and leveraged STEM opportunities. As we know, the K-8 and high school education experiences looks and feels very different for everyone involved, yet they all used the same STEM school certification process and were ultimately scored using the same metrics. Everyone knew  changes needed to be made to improve the process of certification, but to what extent?

In response to the needs being communicated by schools across the state, IDOE jumped in to take action. Through a comprehensive process of analysis of what was and was not working for schools, IDOE and stakeholders across the state began having conversations & working on readapting the STEM school certification process and tools to better serve the intent of certification while meeting the needs identified in the field. During this readaptation period, they considered how to best assess a school’s unique STEM journey across various grade levels, but through a separate K-8 and 9-12 system, while still maintaining the goal of recognizing schools that exemplify innovation in STEM.

Out of these months of collaborative work, new tools, rubrics, and processes have been born, which have birthed a separate STEM school certification process for K-8 & 9-12.

As of July 15th, schools serving secondary students in grades 9-12 will use a newly developed process and rubric to work toward and earn STEM school certification status. This new 9-12 process includes junior/senior high schools, traditional high schools, and career centers. Additionally during this time, a revision of the K-8 scoring rubric and associated tools has been conducted. Edits include changes and additions to the required evidence, such as (2.1 Curriculum Integration) the removal of the list of approved STEM curriculum from the IDOE and the addition of evidence of sample integrative lesson plans that align to Indiana state standards.

As of July 15th, schools serving secondary students in grades 9-12 will use a newly developed process and rubric to work toward and earn STEM school certification status.

Key Takeaways:

Suggested Next Steps:

  1. Visit the IDOE STEM Certification site & review the changes with your building level STEM Leadership Team for the appropriate grade band (K-8 or 9-12).
  2. K-8 schools seeking certification should review the change guide for required evidence as they prepare to apply for certification.
  3. 9-12 schools seeking certification should review the Secondary STEM Certification Correlation Guide to compare the differences between previously-released elements and new elements so they may provide appropriate evidence for all new elements.
young student using a microscope
Photo by Creative Art

Not quite ready for this level of a deep dive into STEM school certification or are you just getting started in your STEM journey? Take this FREE open-resource Indiana STEM Needs Assessment to help narrow your focus and begin the internal dialogue with your team.

Whether you are looking for support on assessing your needs in STEM, going after STEM school certification or taking a first step in your unique STEM journey, STEM Synergy is here to help! Reach out to schedule your complimentary one hour support call today! We can not wait to support your STEM efforts!